National Commentary

Fool Me Once, Shame on You

This commentary is being written in the middle of the night in the wee hours of Wednesday, Nov. 4, with the U.S. presidential election being held in the balance. You are advantaged, dear reader, in that you will be knowing the outcome of this whereas I cannot, at least while still in the holding to the posture of an author of this hour alone (1:35 a.m. local time) when said outcome is still up in the air.

Can we trust James Carville, the cajun former manager of the campaigns of Bill Clinton, primarily, who tells his fellow Democrats not to fret, that the win is in the bag? Or, then there are the analysts on both CNN and MSNBC right when they drive us crazy with relentless parallels between this election and the one in 2016 when Trump upset Hillary Clinton.

You, reader, already know the answer to this, at least part of it, I am sure. I have yet to find out.

One sage commentator on social media quipped this week that the election shall mark either the best day of his life, or the worst, depending on whether Trump is or is not elected.

It’s not quite how I’d put it. I declare even as little I remember it, the best day of my life was when I became aware of my own breath, looking up through the 10 pink fingers I waved in front of my eyes as my first lesson in self-awareness. And conversely, I expect the worst will be when I take my last conscious breath. Ah, life! After all, what is more precious?

The bests and worsts seen this way extend to loved ones, too, affirming the kind of empathy that is the core substance of our mortal existence.

I remember a probably-CIA-backed hardcore cult back in the mid-1970s whose minions were convinced if Jimmy Carter were to be elected president there would be an immediate thermonuclear war and all humanity would be blown to smithereens. Of course, it was an absurd proposition, but one cult masters used effectively to kick their sleep-deprived recruits into overdrive selling literature on street corners and finding new ways to empty parental bank accounts on behalf of the cause of “saving humanity!”

What a con job by the leaders of that cult! They lived lavish lifestyles, including sexually hooking up with whomever among their followers they fancied on any given night. Their minions lived on $5 a day and received no medical, dental, or any other form of care working their 18 hour days.

So, compared to how a member of that cult might react after a month of brainwashing about Carter and nuclear war, if this week’s election fails to go the way of the Trump cult, then maybe some new promised drastic results will necessarily ensue.

My cult in question here and hundreds of others spawned in the 1970s were following the same cookbook that resulted in almost 1,000 lives lost by suicide among one such group in the jungles of Guyana in November 1978.

I am not arguing that the outcome of this election won’t be that bad, no matter who wins. On the contrary, a re-election of Trump would be a devastating blow to the American public, its collective psyche and its role in the world.

But it will reflect not so much Trump as on the state of our nation more generally. that even having lived through four years of the treachery and deceit of this extraordinarily evil man, millions would somehow see it in their interest to go ahead and vote for him again. The saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

It is an irrational cult-like insistence behind any angry Trump devotee, and we’ve been through this all before. The new revelation is that those who love Kool-Aid will want to drink it no matter how problematic it was the previous time.

I refuse to utter the word, “we,” in association with any who contributed to the potential for a Trump re-election this week. Trump’s America does not deserve the association of my name with it.

Nicholas Benton may be emailed at